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This Day in Wrestling History (Sept. 4): The Debut of WCW Monday Nitro

115 years ago today in Chicago, Illinois, Frank Gotch defeated George Hackenschmidt 2-0 in a best of three falls match to retain the world heavyweight wrestling championship.

36 years ago today in Saga, Japan, Giant Baba defeated Harley Race to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship for the third time.

Like his first two reigns, Baba didn’t last long as NWA world champion; Race would regain the title less than a week later.

29 years ago today, the WWF held its third King of the Ring tournament at the Civic Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

In the final match, Randy Savage defeated King Kong Bundy. Other participants included Haku, Brutus Beefcake, Rick Martel, Dan Spivey, One Man Gang, Special Delivery Jones, Sika, Danny Davis, Tito Santana, Junkyard Dog, Tama, Jim Brunzell, Ron Bass, and Nikolai Volkoff.

21 years ago today, WCW presented the first episode of Monday Nitro (WWE Network link) from the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

The show featured the WCW debut of former NFL defensive tackle Steve "Mongo" McMichael on commentary and the shocking return of Larry Pfohl, aka Lex Luger.

It was shocking considering literally no one outside of WCW president Eric Bischoff and Luger knew about it--including Vince McMahon. Luger, who had been at a house show in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada the night before, had been working without a written contract for a few weeks (he was basically on a handshake deal), making him a free agent. In a 2009 interview, Luger expressed regret in how it all went down:

"I will always have regret over that. I would have liked to have done things the right way and given Vince my notice. I do have regret for that. But, at the time, I had to do what was right for my family.


"I was brought into wrestling by Hiro Matsuda about proper protocol and respect for the business. Even if things didn't work out with Vince McMahon, I wanted to give two weeks notice."

Perhaps just as amazing, Luger returned for only 1/5 of what he had made when he was last with WCW. Eric Bischoff, who didn’t have any fondness for Luger, made a token offer to Luger (as a favor to Luger’s BFF Steve “Sting” Borden) hoping that he would turn it down. Oops. Luger would remain with WCW until its sale in March 2001.

Also returning to WCW after a two-year absence was former IWGP Tag Team Champion and national arm wrestling champion Scott Norton.

But the Nitro at the Mall of America was pretty much used to promote Hulk Hogan’s new restaurant, Pastamania. The restaurant closed just a year later, but made a bit of news back in 2009 when its marquee was found near an abandoned building in Minneapolis. The building was demolished just two months after the photo was taken.

  • In a preshow dark match, The American Males (Marcus Alexander Bagwell & Scotty Riggs) defeated Bunkhouse Buck & Dick Slater.
  • Flyin' Brian defeated Jushin Thunder Liger.
  • Sting defeated Ric Flair by disqualification to retain the WCW United States Championship.
  • Hulk Hogan defeated Big Bubba Rogers to retain the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.

16 years ago today on Nitro from Dallas, Texas (WWE Network link), Kevin Nash won WarGames 2000 to retain the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Other participants included Sting, Booker T, Goldberg, Kronik, Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner, and the Harris Brothers.

The match took elements of the classic WarGames match and the Ready to Rumble triple cage contested in the movie of the same name and at Slamboree earlier in the year: one person had to climb the three-story cage, possess the world title belt above the third cage, then escape back down through the door of the bottom cage to win. This was the last War Games match contested in WCW before the company was bought out six months later.

16 years ago today on RAW is WAR from Lexington, Kentucky (WWE Network link), Eddie Guerrero defeated Chyna and Kurt Angle in a triple threat match to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship.

14 years ago today on a live edition of Smackdown from Toronto, Ontario, Canada (WWE Network link), The Undertaker and Steven Richards fought to a no contest.

During the post-match brawl, former WCW tag team champions Kronik (Brian Adams and Bryan Clark) made their return to the WWF (Adams had two previous stints as Crush in the early and late 1990s, while Clark had a mid-90s run as Adam Bomb) and attacked Undertaker. The two would both be gone from the main roster less than a month later following their awful performance at Unforgiven versus the Brothers of Destruction.

The next episode of Smackdown would also be live, but under very different circumstances. More details on that on September 13.

7 years ago today due to visa issues, TNA releases Angelina Love. She wrestled briefly for Women Superstars Unleashed before returning to TNA in January with her visa issues all worked out.

7 years ago today, Ring of Honor announces via press release that both Nigel McGuinness and Bryan Danielson would join World Wrestling Entertainment after agreeing in principle to contracts.

However, it would be only Danielson that wound up in WWE. McGuinness, real name Steven Haworth, failed a pre-screen physical with WWE and would sign with TNA the following month. McGuiness wound up back in ROH in August 2011, while Danielson would wrestle until retiring in February 2016 following multiple concussions.

Danielson and McGuinness ironically hold similar on-screen roles today: Danielson is the on-screen general manager of Smackdown Live and an occasional commentator, while McGuinness is the official matchmaker for Ring of Honor and an occasional commentator.

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